How To Host An Italian Aperitivo

italian aperitivo

When Mark and I visited Rome recently we loved ending our sightseeing (and shopping) days with an ‘Aperitivo’.

An ‘Aperitivo’ is kind of the Italian version of ‘cocktail hour’, except it’s much better because the focus is as much on the food as it is on the drinks. The principle is simple; during a certain time slot (usually from 6pm to 9pm) bars will offer you an assortment of food for free to enjoy with your (paid) drink. Some places go all out and offer a full blown buffet whilst others will simply give you a small platter of delicious appetizers to go with your drink. It’s the perfect way to start an evening with your friends or, if you’re a little bit tight on money, to eat out without having to go to a restaurant.

Since coming back from Italy I’ve been reminiscing about these fun ‘Aperitivo’ evenings and so I thought I’d re-create the experience at home. After all, is there any better way to get over a post-vacation blues than to re-create a happy travel memory? I think not.

If you’re also wanting to get a slice of the ‘Dolce Vita’, here’s how to host your own ‘Aperitivo’ at home in three easy steps. Not only is it a fun and easy theme but it’s also a very economical way to throw a party!

Step 1:  Setting the mood

how to host an aperitivo at home

Aperitivi are meant to be a relaxed affair so no need to go overboard with decorations here. Low lighting combined with candles or fairy lights will set the tone for a laid back and festive occasion.

Don’t forget about music though – any upbeat music such as soul, pop or indie should get people in the right mood as soon they walk through your door. Just make sure you don’t play intense dance music right off the bat, people will be starting their evenings at that time and will most likely still be unwinding from their day. If you’re looking for a ready-made playlist check out the great selection of mixes on websites like 8tracks or Soundcloud.

Step 2: Choosing drinks

apperitivo 8

Aperitivo drinks are usually on the bitter side and relatively low in alcohol as they are design to open your appetite (‘apperitivo’ comes from the latin word ‘aperire’ which means ‘to open’). There are a few classic ‘aperitivo’ cocktails but the most popular are probably: the Spritz, Negroni, and Martini. Wine (or Prosecco) is also becoming a popular choice for ‘aperitivo’ time, especially in winter. Bitter soft drinks such as Chinotto, soda water or Sanbitter are a good non alcoholic alternative.

Here is the recipe for my personal favorite cocktail, the ‘Aperol Spritz’. To me, it has the perfect mix of sweetness and bitterness and I also love its pretty orange color. The taste instantly transports me back to sunny Italian afternoons!

Aperol Spritz

3 parts Prosecco (or any other white sparkling wine)

2 parts Aperol

Splash of soda

1 Orange slice


Instructions: Add a few ice cubes to a tumbler glass (or a wine glass). Pour in the Aperol, followed by the Prosecco. Top with soda water and a slice of orange.

 Step 3: Serving food

aperitivo food

The beauty of an aperitivo is that it can be as simple or elaborate as you want it to be.

Most aperitivi usually include olives and a bowl of chips so this was the foundation for my own platter. Since O knew it was going to be just the two of us enjoying the aperitivo I wanted to keep things simple. I simply added a few mini pizzas (pre-made bases topped with pizza sauce, ham, cheese and olives) and some Grissini and slices of prosciutto. It was the perfect amount of pre-dinner food for two!

If you’re having more than two people over here are some other popular aperitivo dishes you could make:

  • Nuts
  • Marinated vegetables

For an ‘apericena’ (a mix between aperitivo and dinner) then you could organize a buffet made of various pasta and rice dishes, pizzas, etc.You could also ask your guests to bring  a plate of food so that you can save on cooking time and cost.

x Buon appetito!

apperitivo 14


  • Makes me giddy just thinking about an italian happy hour as I’ll be in Italy in less than 2 weeks time! Deelish…

    • Italy is wonderful – I must admit I’m a little jelly of your upcoming trip! Please have an Aperol spritz for me lol x

  • I absolutely love, love, love this!!! My husband and I are all about themed appetizers as dinners in the summer, and Italian food is definitely one of our favorites! Off to pin this now :)

    • Thank you Alyssa! You’re right – themed appetizers are the perfect alternative to dinner on hot summer days!

  • Oh my… I don’t even know where to start! This all looks absolutely amazing! Italian food is one of my absolute favourite cuisines. We visited there a couple of years ago and I would go back tomorrow if I could! xx

    • I would totally go back tomorrow if I could too! How nice would it be to escape the Australian winter and get a bit of Italian sunshine right now? ;)

    • I’d love to go to Tuscany one day, it always looks so gorgeous in pictures and movies. Italians definitely know how to eat well, I could eat pizza all day long (well, almost) :)

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